” ‘Tis the season to be jolly” …. “Merry Christmas” …. “Happy Holidays” …..
We get it. Christmas time is supposed to be festive, happy. It’s summer here in New Zealand, and what a treat so far! We’re getting ready to go on holidays, gather with family, eat our weight in food … so what’s not to be happy about?
What if I told you that I know people that hate the Christmas season? I myself this year refuse to celebrate Christmas, which is usually my favorite holiday. I haven’t seen my family for over a year and Covid has prevented me to go home as I would normally do, and I find it extremely difficult after a year full of challenges already not to be able to be with my people.
For some people, Christmas and holidays in general can be quite triggering. The stress associated with the holidays, particularly in the new pandemic economy, can be a major trigger for some people. Some people might have gone through trauma around this time of the year. Some people cannot go to celebrate Christmas with their family and therefore struggle with the whole idea of a “family holiday to be celebrated”. It could be that people struggle with body image/weight issue/eating disorder and that by definition, a holiday where food is celebrated becomes a source of anxiety. For some people who might have lost their job or are struggling financially, the pressure of “putting presents under the tree” might be too much.
There is added pressure in the idea of not wanting to be “The Grinch”. Let’s face it, although the movie is hilarious, nobody wants to be that. “Oh you’re such a Grinch, come on loosen up!”…. It’s not nice is it? So some people will brace themselves, put on a brave smile, and pretend they are as happy as everybody while they are hating every minute of it inside.
All and all, you never know what people are going through, and you should never assume that the Christmas season is “merry”. So how can you support your teams throughout this season to make sure everybody comes back energized and motivated on the other side?
The first thing to do, before organizing the Christmas party, is to catch up with your staff. Individually and as a group, and more on an informal basis: go grab a coffee, and have a chat. Establish the state of mind of your teams, where they are at, what are their plans. Understand their potential struggles, be empathetic, and most importantly, listen. Some people might find it difficult to talk and proactivity will go a long way.
Then ask yourselves the question: what kind of support can you provide if needed? Usually companies close over Christmas, but could you stay open and allow your staff to work for example (which would help with the “financial struggle” cause of anxiety). What programmes do you have in place internally to help your staff through this?
From a physical point of view, alcohol and overeating are depressants. Can your Christmas party include some physical activity? It is proven that staying physically fit helps massively with mental health. One of my favorite Christmas party was an Amazing Race organized around Christchurch. We ended up at a pub afterwards, but we had also run around town a lot which made dinner even more rewarding.
Make plans for the new year: make sure everybody has goals to come back to. Not “we’ll do it all over again on the other side” (yay……) or “these are your KPIs for the new year” (what a bummer….). But what are your teams and individuals goals? Don’t wait until January to set them up, discuss them with your teams before Christmas, make collaterals or visuals, so people do not have to think about it over Christmas and can come back to them in January.
Do not try and keep up with the Joneses. We all know that Instagram isn’t real life. Christmas party doesn’t have to be flash, we don’t have to pretend. Keep it small, intimate, meaningful. Maybe organize some charity time where everybody gathers and donate their time to the SPCA for one afternoon. After all, that’s also the Christmas spirit isn’t it ….
But more importantly, if you cannot offer support, make sure that you know where to guide your people. Here are a few links below that are great guidelines.
So. On that note. Merry Christmas ya filthy animals. And yes, Die Hard IS a Christmas movie #yipeekiyay